Philip Velazquez, president of Canyon Creek's homeowners association, left, and Jim and...

Philip Velazquez, president of Canyon Creek's homeowners association, left, and Jim and Janice Janice Rohlf of Port Jefferson, oppose development plans for the former Maryhaven property. Credit: Rick Kopstein

A former campus for special needs adults in Port Jefferson is at the center of a dispute between residents and village officials over development plans for the property.

Mayor Margot J. Garant said the proposal by Jericho-based Beechwood Homes to build a condominium complex would help the village save a century-old building on the Myrtle Avenue property. 

But neighbors said the Beechwood plan — for more than 100 residential units in multiple buildings on the 10-acre property — would be an eyesore.

“When we saw the plans, we almost had a heart attack,” Janice Rohlf, 81, said, referring to herself and her husband, Jim, 86. “We’re just freaking out over the number of units on that size of a piece of property.” 

The site had been used for decades for group homes and medical needs, most recently by Maryhaven Inc. The Port Jefferson Station-based nonprofit that left several years ago after relocating its remaining residents, a spokeswoman said.

Garant said the Beechwood plan is the best option for preserving the site's main feature, a stone-and-tile building built about 1920 with a tower that can be seen from Port Jefferson Harbor. She said the plan also would add much-needed owner-occupied housing in the village.

“The most important thing for the village is saving the building,” Garant said. “I think it’s going to be extraordinary.”

Port Jefferson's zoning code allows the village board to relax requirements in order to preserve buildings with architectural or historical significance, village attorney Brian Egan said, adding that the Maryhaven building appears to qualify.

Beechwood chief executive Michael Dubb put the cost of removing asbestos and refurbishing the building at $10 million. New condos would be added to the building after cleanup is completed, he said.

Dubb said the company plans to buy the site from owner Catholic Health after obtaining village zoning approvals. Dubb declined to specify the purchase price.

Catholic Health officials did not return calls for comment.

Dubb said the number of units would be “in the high 100s,” adding that the final number would depend on the village's zoning approvals. Units would start at $700,000, and the development would include a pool, gym and other amenities, he said.

He said potential buyers include retirees, but there would be no age restrictions for residents.

“The market here is people who have lived in Port Jefferson [and] feel a bond and have their roots in Port Jefferson," Dubb said. "Our market would really be people who have raised their kids, no longer need that space, don’t want to shovel snow … but want to stay in Port Jefferson.”

He said it's too early to announce whether the development will include affordable units as required under state law. He said no public meetings with the village have been scheduled.

Rohlf and her neighbors in the Canyon Creek neighborhood, near the former Maryhaven site, said they weren't convinced.

The Beechwood plan would be "totally out of character with what we have now," said Philip Velazquez, president of Canyon Creek's homeowners association.

“The atmosphere will be totally different," he said. "Right now it’s idyllic; it’s like living in a park, and we’d be looking across the street at all these buildings.”

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